Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Putting Down the GLITZ; Philippa Stockley Says We Killed Art Deco Because We Couldn't Bear Its Beauty

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Putting Down the GLITZ; Philippa Stockley Says We Killed Art Deco Because We Couldn't Bear Its Beauty

Article excerpt

Byline: Philippa Stockley

ELEGANT, sophisticated, streamlined, shiny and sexy... Art Deco is oh, so sexy, compared with clunky Postmodernism. Yet, one led to the other.

Postmodernism took many motifs from Art Deco and messed with them. In the years before the Second World War the bright hope of Art Deco was crushed, and replaced by something cruder and more brutal.

How could something so lovely ever last? What the RIBA's fascinating exhibition of 100 photos of interiors and architecture (most in London) shows is that, after 1918, these rooms and sweeping, fluid white buildings were made for a brave new world of hope, delight, light and beauty. Nothing horrible could happen in such perfect places.

Here are the Odeon picture palaces with their soaring, rippling coffered ceilings, like the vast salons of transatlantic ships; the dance clubs and restaurants with sweeping stairs for that grand Hollywood-style entrance in black tie and gardenia; those bedrooms with polished steel, mirrors and incredibly crisp whiteness, in which romance was a certainty; the all-modern bathrooms of shiny surfaces, chromium and steel, in which youth and beauty would be reflected for ever... or the blocks of flats that Hercule Poirot might sail out of in a panther-like coupe. What stands out is their beauty. But, just years later, the dream was smashed.

The term Art Deco was only invented in the 1960s. Originally, it was called "Moderne". It started in Paris, as an early design for a bar shows: a style America would later claim for diners and speakeasies. In London, domestic interiors began to dazzle as with the amazing bedroom at Gayfere House in Smith Square, from 1931, while Lord and Lady Mount Temple's new house was straight out of Brideshead Revisited, done with designer Oliver Hill and immediately nicknamed Lady Mount Temple's Crystal Palace. The entrance hall had peach-tinted mirrors and a staircase of black-and-white marble; but it is the mirrored recess that the bed sits in that screams hedonistic luxury, and the way the walls chamfer invisibly into the ceiling, keeping all eyes on the bed. …

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